Why does Alice go down the rabbit hole?

Bored by reading her book with no pictures, Alice is intrigued when she spots the White Rabbit, who is wearing a coat, checking a pocket watch, and even speaking to himself. Curious to know more about a clothed, talking rabbit, Alice follows it, and it disappears into a rabbit hole. She’s so fascinated by the creature that she doesn’t stop to think how she’ll get out of the rabbit hole should she enter it, and before she can understand what’s happening, she finds herself falling down the hole. When she finally reaches the bottom, she tries to follow the White Rabbit, but he evades her, and eventually, she’s distracted from her chase by several other Wonderland creatures.

Why was the White Rabbit in such a hurry?

The White Rabbit is always in a hurry because he’s constantly attending to a number of demanding, volatile royals: the Duchess, the King of Hearts, and especially the Queen of Hearts. When Alice first spots the Rabbit checking his pocket watch and worrying about the time, it’s because he needs to bring the Duchess a pair of gloves and a fan. Because of the nasty temperament of Wonderland’s royals, the Rabbit worries that the Duchess will be “savage” to him, or even have him executed, should he be delayed in bringing her the requested items. The Rabbit remains consistently frazzled throughout the novel, as he must also attend to the King and Queen of Hearts, infamous for their constant and unreasonable demands for the execution of their subjects.

What was the Dormouse's story about?

The Dormouse’s story follows three little sisters who live in a treacle well. Like many of Carroll’s stories and songs throughout the book, the Dormouse’s tale is extremely silly, but utilizes wordplay for comedic effect. Treacle is a sweet, syrupy substance similar to molasses that was a staple dessert in well-to-do British households during the 19th century. The sisters both lived in a well – like a water well – filled with treacle, and ate the treacle in the well. The Dormouse explains that the sisters were learning to draw, and Alice asks what they drew. Here, the Dormouse responds “treacle,” the joke being that the sisters aren’t drawing as in making art, but rather drawing treacle from the well as one might draw water from a well. Confused, Alice asks how the sisters could draw from the well considering that they’re living in the well, since water is drawn from wells via a pulley system on the top of the well. In another bit of silly wordplay, the Dormouse agrees that the sisters are in the well, saying that they’re “well in,” which is a phrase meaning that people are on good terms with one another. The Dormouse then goes on to say that the sisters are learning to draw all manner of things that begin with the letter M, including concepts like “muchness” that are impossible to conceptualize on paper. The story is utterly ridiculous and without much of a point, but it’s also quite witty – all staple elements of Carroll’s writing style.

What was the Caterpillar doing when Alice saw it?

When Alice is at one of her smallest heights, she comes across a large mushroom. It’s so tall that she can’t see the top of it, and she’s struck by curiosity. When she manages to get a look at the top of the mushroom, she finds a caterpillar sitting on it. The caterpillar is smoking a hookah, which is a large pipe filled with water and equipped with a long tube. Hookahs are used to smoke tobacco and other substances. The caterpillar is in its own world, not noticing Alice at first because it’s high. Alice and the caterpillar go on to have a frustrating and ridiculous conversation, which might partly be due to the caterpillar’s drugged-up state, but is also certainly because, as Alice learns later from the Cheshire Cat, every creature in Wonderland is entirely mad.

What was the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon's lobster quadrille?

The lobster quadrille is a dance that includes all the creatures of the sea. The dance involves forming two lines full of seals, fish, turtles, and other ocean animals, and each animal has a lobster for a partner. Throughout the dance, the animals advance, change partners, and then throw the lobsters as far into the sea as they can. They then swim out to fetch their lobsters, change partners again, and retreat to land – and, as the Mock Turtle says, that’s just the first figure. The lobster quadrille is danced to a song that includes lyrics. Many of Carroll’s poems and songs in the book parody a popular poem or song of the Victorian era. In the case of the lobster quadrille, the parody is of a poem called “The Spider and the Fly,” in which a cunning spider lures a fly into their web with sweet words and descriptions of the luxuries within their house. The lobster quadrille swaps insects for sea creatures, and the poem follows a whiting, which is a fish, who attempts to convince a snail to join the lobster quadrille. The snail, however, is reluctant to join the dance, worrying that he’ll be thrown far out into the waters of France, a country well-known for eating snails.